It was rainy today, so we could not go see the kooya (car). This upset N. and he continually asked for it for the first hour we were there. Eventually we interested him in lots of other things, but you could tell that he was missing his time in the car! We played in a large, open room. It is typically used for gross motor activities.
N. spent time playing with his favorite three-wheeled car again today. We also played with a snow sled (Taty pulled N. in it!) A couple times, N. put together one of our puzzles with minimal assistance from us.
We added new signs to N.'s vocabulary today too. While he was receiving a ride on the sled, we would say, "Go" and sign it. N. quickly learned that if he said/signed "go," Taty would go!!! Every time Chance stopped, we also signed "stop". N. did not seem to like to sign "stop", though because he didn't want to stop!!!
As you'll be able to see in some of the videos I'll post, N. also found some skates. We worked on telling N. to sit - verbally and with sign. We wanted him to sit on his bottom so we could help buckle the skates. He doesn't really love to sit either, so we'll see if he will pick that up!
Multiple times today, we allowed N. to turn the light on and off. (His caregivers are going to HATE us!) We demonstrated the sign for "light." N. never did verbally repeat it, but he did spontaneously use the sign once!
Yesterday, when we were walking to supper, we found a toy shop, and as typical new parents, we bought N. something! We found a tube of giant bubbles. Today, we used those bubbles to teach him the sign for "more". We were afraid that "more" and "please" would be confusing though since he doesn't speak English and the words gain a similar response from us. We inquired about the Bulgarian word for "more" and learned that it is oshte (aush-teh). N. was able to say oshte verbally, along with using the sign. His fingers were not quite as well controlled with this sign though.
Overall, I hadn't noticed as many issues with his fingers today, but I believe much of that is because we are constantly requiring him to sign! We keep his fingers moving.
While we were feeding N. a banana and water, we began to put two words together - "eat please" or "drink please." He did well with this, but he is not quite to the stage where he will repeat it spontaneously. We'll keep working! He's very, very good at verbalizing "eeeeeat". Sometimes even with the previous bite of food in his mouth! When N. is eating, he prefers to have Chance or I put the food directly into his mouth. We've worked on encouraging him to use his own fingers to eat.
Today, I was so impressed because the social worker required N. to sign "please" and "eat" multiple times. I'm praying that they will continue to work with him using this method of communication. His language has blossomed in just the short time we have been with him.
I also want to point out that Taty Chance only knew half of these signs before we came to the orphanage. He also knew a total of two Bulgarian words. He's rocking the sign language AND Bulgarian. Can you say, "Father of the Year Award?!"
Despite all the language progress, N. did have some REALLY unpleasant behavior today too. If you'd like to only read about the flowers and roses and cute bunnies of adoption, please stop reading now. :)
I want to be very honest - this child is going to give me grey hair, add wrinkles to my face, and put me into an earlier grave.
But it is going to be worth it.
N. started the morning desiring the car, so we had to redirect him from that. These new activities went relatively well until about 10:30. He began to get tired and irritable (and maybe hungry). At this time, he began pulling off our glasses, throwing toys, screaming, and hitting. I think that much of his behavior issues are also attributed to the fact that N. has probably never received this much one-on-one time in his short little life. He appears to like Chance and I, but also tests us and becomes aggressive with us.
When N. gets in this wound-up-crazy-I-cannot-contol-myself mood, he becomes very sensitive orally. What I mean by this, is that he looks for something to really chomp on. He typically goes for toys made of rubber. He will usually bite until he puts a hole in the object.
It is VERY difficult to bring N. back down from this state. I'm going to have to go home and study up. He can no longer be redirected, reasoned with (even by Bulgarian-speaking caregivers), or disciplined. (Any book suggestions are of course welcome!) Today, when N. was at the height of this behavior, he bit Chance. Hard. On the back of Chance's hand. He bit hard enough to break the skin. Afterwards, we told him "No!" ("nay" in Bulgarian) and held him still for a few moments - a tricky feat with such an active boy! The socialworker came over and talked to N. about being nice and touching nicely. After a while, N. came over and kissed C's hand. Our translator (today it was Svet's 22 year old son, Tony) told us that now Chance had a "memory" of N. We laughed. Later, when we showed the orphanage director (Ivelina) she claimed that she also had "many memories" of N! We had a good laugh about that one.
Despite the fact that N. bit Chance, he repeatedly desired for Chance to hold him. That was very exciting! Also, at one point, he initiated a game of "cut the pickle", as opposed to Chance starting it. Very cool!
At around 11:30, the other orphans were playing in a room down the hall. It is a playroom, lunch room, and room with a TV/DVD player. When we arrived, it felt like mass chaos. Now, I taught PreK/daycare for a few years before we came to Athens... This was not the same at all! There are currently 13 children in the orphanage, but it sure did feel like 50! The children were very interested in the fact that we were guests. Also, they were expressive about how they had missed N. this morning. They truly are brothers and sisters to one another. N. did not seem to miss them, however. I believe he is loving the one-on-one attention, and he's ok with letting the children know that he's special!
Many of the children came to us and asked to be held. Actually, Tony said they were asking for us to pick them up so they could touch the TV... Kind of an odd request, but then again, many of them have probably never touched a TV, and this one is six feet off the ground. They are probably curious about it.
The caregivers organized some songs and dances while we were in there. Chance and I even participated in the dancing. (Don't worry, I have video of that too!)
N. did participate in some of the dancing with his friends. It was fun to see him in a "more natural" environment.
The other children in the orphanage are ADORABLE. I'm going to talk with the social worker about which children are available for adoption. I'd love to help get these kiddos into families!
We spoke with the orphanage director again today and asked some basic care questions and questions about her thoughts about us. Translator Tony said that the way Ivelina speaks about N., it is the same wording as if she were talking about her own child. She told us today that she is so glad that we are adopting N. because she's watched us work on his language, and we have more to offer him than they do.
I, of course, started bawling.
Do you remember the story about when we were matched with N.? The director of our adoption agency called and said (in a matter-of-fact way) that she had a child for the Newinghams. We debated on whether or not to adopt N., but eventually God spoke to us through N.'s name. It is similar to the Greek word which means "to know."
Before we even knew that N. existed. Before we even knew that we would adopt a child from Bulgaria, God was painting our family portrait. He left a space for N. until we were ready to accept the child. He put me into situations where I could learn strategies for teaching language.
We didn't know.
N. didn't know.
God places the lonely into families. Amen.
Ok, wipe your tears, send me a bajillion messages making me feel guilty because I make you cry with every blog post... Blah blah blah. :-D
Just teasing. Chance and I cherish EVERY message you have sent. Many of your messages make me cry too. Payback, I suppose.
Ok, back to my son.
Eeek. Love typing that...
Multiple times today, we were told that N. can accurately be described as a problem-solver. Practically all of his caregivers have told us that they are impressed with his mind.
Pretty sure that's the nice way of saying that N. is the resident troublemaker.
Let me give you an example: As soon as we entered the room with the other orphans, (well, after N. punched one in the face.... You'll have that, I guess....) N. walked over to a six-foot shelf that is against the wall. He was instantly to the top of the shelf grabbing a plastic cup. We were told later that the cups were new. N. grabbed one, took the reusable, corrugated straw out of it and practically repelled back down the side of the (shelf) mountain. After landing on both feet (like a cat!) he put the "wrong side" of the straw in his mouth and began to blow. The straw made a high-pitched whistling noise. Evidently, the day these new cups were received, N. discovered this new trick. He's been blessing his friends and caregivers with the sound ever since. None of the other children have been able to recreate the sound.
Another example: N. and the other orphans share clothes, and sometimes shoes, but every night before bed, each child places that day's shoes at the end of their bed. And almost every night, after everyone is asleep, our boy sneaks out of bed, steals someone else's shoes and wears them to the bathroom - probably just for the pure joy of knowing he's getting away with something he's not supposed to. After he goes pish ("potty" in Bulgarian), he sneaks back into the room and puts the stolen shoes back where he found them. It has been reported, that he has stolen the shoes of the caregivers as well! What a stinker!
One final example: The other day, N. really wanted us to open the orphanage gate so he could go look at a car that was parked in the road. He tried everything to get us to open the gate. He pulled our hands toward it and he pointed and stomped his feet. None of these strategies were working, so N. grabbed one of the hot wheels cars we had given him. He looked toward the street and chucked the car over the gate. At that moment, he grabbed my hand and attempted to request that the gate be opened so he could retrieve the car. (And escape toward the street!!!) to his dismay, I've been one step ahead of him thus far...
My luck will eventually run out, I'm sure.
Better go start making a list of how to N.-proof our house! :)
Thanks for all your prayers... Stay tuned for photos and video. My camera batteries died, so all of today's media was shot with Chance's iPhone. Sorry about the quality.